Migration routes used by Nearctic migrant birds can cover great distances; they also differ among species, within species, and between years and seasons. As a result, migration routes for an entire migratory avifauna can encompass broad geographic areas, making it impossible to protect continuous stretches of habitat sufficient to connect the wintering and breeding grounds for most species. Consequently, ways to enhance habitats converted for human use (i.e. for pasture, crop cultivation, human settlement) as stopover sites for migrants are especially important. Shelterbelts around pastures and fields, if planted with species targeted to support migrant (and resident) bird species that naturally occupy mature forest habitats and that are at least partially frugivorous, could be a powerful enhancement tool for such species, if the birds will enter the converted areas to feed. I tested this approach for Nearctic migrant birds during the spring migration through an area in Chiapas, Mexico. Mature forest tree species whose fruits are eaten by birds were surveyed. Based on life form, crop size and fruit characteristics, I selected three tree species for study: Cymbopetalum mayanum (Annonaceae), Bursera simaruba (Burseraceae) and Trophis racemosa (Moraceae). I compared the use of fruits of these species by migrants and residents in forest with their use of the fruits of isolated individuals of the same species in pasture and cropland. All three plant species were useful for enhancing converted habitats for forest-occupying spring migrants, although species differed in the degree to which they entered disturbed areas to feed on the fruits. These tree species could probably enhance habitats for migrants at sites throughout the natural geographic ranges of the plants; in other geographic areas for other target bird groups, other tree species might be more appropriate.
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The potential of fruit trees to enhance converted habitats for migrating birds in southern Mexico